Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Was, Don

Don Was is a music industry luminary, a multi-faceted creative who lists musician, music producer, director, composer, and more among his credentials.  

Born Donald Fagenson on September 13, 1952, in Detroit, Was grew up absorbing musical influences in the form of Jazz and Blues, as well as popular acts like the Rolling Stones. In his young adult years, he would also take heavy inspiration from the counterculture movement, particularly Detroiter John Sinclair. In 1979, he adopted the name Don Was and formed the band Was (Not Was) with his longtime friend David Weiss, who took on the name David Was. The eclectic group, which collaborated with many musicians, produced four albums and had their biggest hit with 1987’s “Walk the Dinosaur.” Was primarily plays bass guitar. 

Was has earned a great deal of prestige for his work producing music. In the course of his career, he has worked as a producer for many performers, such as Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Carly Simon, Iggy Pop, The B-52s, Elton John, Bonnie Rait, The Rolling Stones, and many more. His work has earned him five Grammy awards, including Producer of the Year in 1994.  

Also involved in film and television, Was has worked in several aspects of music direction and production for a number of films, including Days of Thunder, Toy Story, and Thelma and Louise. Was also directed and produced the documentary I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.  

Jazz label Blue Note Records named Was their president in 2012. In 2021, Was partnered with Ann Delisi to form the Don Was Motor City Playlist radio show on WDET, in which Was shares musical selections and offers stories from his life in the music industry. Was is a regular fixture of Detroit’s Concert of Colors music festival with his “Don Was All-Star Revue.” 



Concert of Colors 2019 poster

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